Peter Gabriel has shared a newly recorded version of his 1980 song “Biko” featuring 25 different guest musicians from around the world. Among the artists who appear on the track are Angélique Kidjo, Yo-Yo Ma, The Cape Town Ensemble, Sebastian Robertson, and bass legend Meshell Ndegeocello.
The newly recorded version of his anti-apartheid anthem first debuted at Peace Through Music: A Global Event For Social Justice in December. Nkosinanthi Biko, son of the song’s namesake Steve Biko, introduced the song. The track is a part of Playing For Change’s Songs Around the World initiative, which aims to support music programs for children around the world.
“Although the white minority government has gone in South Africa, the racism around the world that apartheid represented has not,” Gabriel said to Rolling Stone about the new recording of the song. “Racism and nationalism are sadly on the rise. In India, Myanmar and Turkey, Israel, and China, racism is being deliberately exploited for political gain. On the black/white front the Black Lives Matter movement has made it very clear how far we still have to go before we can hope to say we have escaped the dark shadow of racism.
“It was wonderful and quite emotional to watch the finished song, so many beautiful performances from so many different artists,” he continued. “It felt a bit like the Womad festival had settled on the song.”
“Biko” first appeared on Peter Gabriel’s third self-titled album, released in 1980. “Biko” was inspired by South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who died while in police custody in 1977. The song was subsequently banned in South Africa, as the government considered it a threat to security. Yet the song became a hit for Gabriel, reaching number 38 on the UK charts in 1980.
“Biko” follows previously released videos as part of Playing For Change’s global performance series including The Band’s “The Weight” led by Robbie Robertson and The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”